Developing a course on creating sustainable community

The Institute ran a two-year project for the Homes and Communities Agency to produce a generic course on Creating Sustainable Community. We:

  • Analysed the existing market for such courses
  • Re-engineered the ‘Imagine’ methodology to fit the need*
  • Produced and piloted the course with community groups in the East Midlands
  • Helped 20 UK Higher Education Institutions to assess the course for their teaching provision
  • Ran the course as a two day masterclass in various parts of the UK

The course is now in place and being applied in the North West, London and the Midlands. It provides a mechanism for communities of all kinds (of place, profession, practice and even virtual communities) to assess and improve their own long term sustainability.

* Imagine is a participatory method which provides communities with the means to explore their own sustainability and model potential futures.

European  Commission project HERMES. Esprit Working Group – 9158: Helping Europe revitalise manufacturing: an educational strategy

European Commission ESPRIT project "Joint technical and organisational design of CIM (Computer-Integrated Manufacturing) systems for SMEs (Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises)"

EPSRC Complex Systems course 

A one-year project to deliver a pilot and two presentations of a course on complex systems with colleagues from Cranfield University.


The Institute worked with four European construction companies and two other research centres on a project funded by the European Commission to develop a knowledge management tool: a search engine for construction projects. The aim was to enable project engineers to search for expert information and advice on issues of specific relevance to construction projects, for example, how to treat Japanese knotweed. The intention was to provide project engineers on scattered construction sites with a search engine by which they could access not only published material but also the records of other projects and the details of experts who could be consulted. To this end the project not only had to construct a dictionary of terms relevant to construction but also to establish links to a wide variety of information sources. The Institute worked on the human and organisational issues of this technological development primarily with the lead partner, Taylor Woodrow UK. These issues included (1) understanding the information needs and environmental context of site management staff, (2) describing the information and expertise sources that would be available to the search engine, (3) predicting the ‘to be’ situation in each company if the tool was to be effectively adopted and (4) doing pilot evaluations of an early prototype.

North East Essex Primary Care Trust "Matrix Working and Organisational Change Programme"

This programme was designed to provide a developmental forum for Assistant Directors to cultivate more collaborative and effective ways of working together. It was structured in three phases, to give participants the opportunity to experience some of the dynamics involved in inter and intra group behaviour:

Phase one consisted of one-to-one consultations with Assistant Directors. This explored the way in which participants worked with their superiors, managed the teams beneath them, collaborated with each other and  relevant stakeholders and reviewed their own working practice. A report on this phase informed the content of the second phase, which consisted of ten fortnightly group sessions. Participants were given the opportunity both to present and to consult to relevant case studies, illustrating their own and others' organisational dilemmas.

Phase three was intended to integrate Matrix Working within the system, but did not take place.

The Adoption of Electronic Patient Records in the NHS during the NPfIT (National Programme for Information Technology). 

Between 2004 and 2012 the NHS attempted to ‘roll out’ standardised electronic patient records across all Trusts and GP practices in England. The programme paid little attention to the many human and organisational issues that had to be addressed in each location if these systems were to be adopted. The Institute recognised early the local sociotechnical issues that had to be addressed and

  • Organised a series of workshops for IT staff in NHS Trusts, e.g. for ASSIST (The Association of ICT Professionals in Health and Social Care) and the NHS Faculty of Health Informatics, to provide tools for a local design process that would enable user populations to adopt, configure and exploit these systems for patient benefit.
  • Joined with colleagues from the Sociotechnical Specialist Group of the British Computing Society to provide evidence as part of a BCS inquiry into NPfIT;
  • In one Trust worked on a piece of sociotechnical systems design, which is reported under Action Research.

The integration of health and social care for the elderly in the community

A growing problem in the developed world is that people are living longer and placing greater strain on health and social services. The Institute has been working in a number of ways to contribute to the development of more effective ways of enabling older people to continue to live independent lives at home. Achieving this goal involves helping the many agencies that contribute to health and social care work together more effectively to deliver support for the whole person: 

  • We have been working with an NHS community care trust on an initiative to implement a ‘Frail Elderly’ pathway which will provide older people discharged from hospital with a full range of care at home. The challenge is to coordinate the inputs of a potentially wide range of   agencies to provide the same range of services that might be available on a hospital ward     
  • We are also working with local charities and other non-statutory organisations that play significant roles in supporting older people at home, to help them develop their contributions alongside the statutory agencies
  • There are technological developments in telecare and telehealth that promise much as aids to older people at home, but the promise is often unfulfilled. We are working on the methods by which these technologies are chosen, implemented and supported as a sociotechnical problem to ensure they can really make this contribution 

A Reflective Practitioner Programme

A programme based on the principles of the Working Conference was developed and implemented for Kent County Council